Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward has tapped a longtime member of the City Prosecutor’s Office to serve as interim city attorney to replace the retiring Mike Ormsby.
Lynden Smithson will assume the interim job after Ormsby’s retirement June 10. Smithson, who has been with the Prosecutor’s Office for almost 20 years, is the chief assistant prosecutor, lead domestic violence prosecutor and the office’s representative on the county’s Mental Health Court, the city announced Thursday in a release.
A search is expected for the next city attorney, whose selection must be confirmed by the Spokane City Council. The interim position is a mayoral appointment.
“We are at a critical time as we emerge from a pandemic with numerous important quality-of-life considerations in front of us that will determine the future of our great city,” Woodward said in a statement. “Lynden’s experience with the challenges we face and the opportunities to pursue solutions will be important to our forward movement.”
Ormsby, a former U.S. attorney who has served as city attorney for more than five years across two city administrations, announced his retirement last week. He will continue to oversee the city’s risk management activities part time into at least August, and city officials said he will support Smithson during the transition.
Smithson will shadow Ormsby starting Tuesday.
Prior to his time in the City Attorney’s Office, Smithson served as a private civil and defense attorney for two firms, according to the city. His civil practice focused on employment law, while his criminal work was on behalf of misdemeanor and felony defendants.
“The City has the opportunity to get ahead of some challenges that other larger cities have struggled with for some time,” Smithson, a graduate of Gonzaga School of Law and the University of Washington, said in a statement. “We have a really good foundation of therapeutic courts and service connectivity that we can learn from and enhance our ability to offer the right balance of compassion and accountability.”
City spokesman Brian Coddington said Smithson’s selection was guided by a mix of recommendations, feedback and discussions with members of the legal community as well as the City Council.
Council President Breean Beggs said while several councilmembers were asked to interview Smithson after he was picked, he does not believe any were involved in the selection process.
“I look forward to continuing a long history of working with Mr. Smithson during his interim service,” Beggs said.
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